Men's Suit Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know
13 November, 2018News
Buying a well-fitting suit is an essential rite of passage for every man to go through, but it can get overwhelming with so many options and styles to choose from. This is where we come in with this handy suit buying guide which will take you through all the fit details and design options you’ll need to know when buying your perfect suit. Read more Men’s Style Guide features and check out our Store.
How To Choose A Suit
A correctly fitted suit can make any man feel ready to take on the world. There’s no denying that buying a suit can sometimes feel like a minefield of potential faux pas - get the fit wrong and it can be completely unflattering, choose the wrong pattern and you might look more Beetlejuice than Bond, accessorise incorrectly and you can look a little bit lost.
Sounds daunting of course but by covering a number of the basics and doing enough research before entering the shop, you’ll ensure that you end up with a suit that really ticks all the boxes. Here at The Idle Man we don't want you to feel when intimated when buying your perfect suit. So whether you’re looking for a completely new suit or looking to update an exciting one, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to guarantee your suit game is on point.
Suit Measurement Guide
Regardless of how much money you’ve spent on it, an ill-fitting suit, whether it’s too tight and looks restrictive, or is too big and looks bulky and awkward, will never look good. The right fit can make or break a suit so think close to the shoulders, slim through the body and trousers but not too slim, well tapered with a break before the shoe.
The path to choosing the correct fit can be a challenge but is well worth the effort to avoid discomfort when wearing your suit. Here are the main things to look out for:
The Shoulders - the shoulder pads should lie flat and should not protrude beyond your own shoulders. The seam of the shoulder should meet the seam of the sleeve where your arm meets your shoulder. If the seam that connects these parts of the jacket is hiked up or dangling down it will not sit right.
The Length of the Jacket - the back of the jacket should fall comfortably in a straight line with the bottom edge draping over the top of the curve formed by the buttocks but no lower than your knuckles. It should not flare at the back above the buttocks or fall past them and sag. When your arms are hanging straight down, you should be able to cup your fingers under the sides of your suit jacket.
The Length of the Sleeve - this should never fall any lower than the base of your thumb. In fact it should ideally show about half an inch of the shirt beyond the jacket cuff.
The Closure - the jacket should fit closely around your stomach but not too tight to avoid the awkward gaping at the buttons. A fist’s worth of room should be between yourself and the jacket.
The Seat- aka the ‘butt’. This should not pull tight against your buttocks - you will notice horizontal strains under the buttocks if this is the case, or drape loosely down the backs of your thighs - at which point you will notice gathered material.
The Trouser Break - this refers to the point where your trousers touch your shoe. The cuff should rest on the top of your shoe but it shouldn’t do much more than that, trousers that are too long will look sloppy.
The Slim Fit Suit
There is an ongoing trend for suit silhouettes to be tighter with a slimmer fit, this style is sharp and very contemporary but you will need to ensure that the fabric never seems stretched or pulled. The suits are often shorter in style with a more tailored, narrow fit around the chest as well as tapered trouser legs.
The trousers of the modern suit will often sit higher up on the shoe/ankle with a slimmer hem opening. They do not tend to touch the shoe as per the traditional rules. This cut falls in line with the current trend of going sockless or wearing vibrant socks with a suit.
How to Measure for a Suit
At a tailors, such as the ones in Savile Row, they already have a tailoring measurement template to ensure that you always get the right fit. However if you're on your own and, like 90% of the population, without a personal tailor, then it's important to know how to take measurements for a suit. Learning how to measure for a suit is essential if you’re not planning on buying a bespoke suit from a tailors (who will do the hard work for you). Simply measure yourself using the basic instructions below and use the suit measurement guide to ensure that you buy the most suitable size.
How to take measurements for a suit
Before you begin you'll need a tape measure and a willing friend to help take the measurements. It is ideal if you wear a shirt or T-shirt and a pair of trousers that aren't jeans when you are measuring and make sure to keep the tape measure taut but not strained.
Tailor measurements guide:Neck - Measure around your neck at the level your shirt collar would sit. You should not feel restricted by the tape for a comfortable fit.
Shoulders - Measure from the end of your left shoulder to the end of your right shoulder.
Chest - Measure horizontally around the chest roughly at nipple level, under the armpits, and over your shoulder blades.
Waist - Measure horizontally around your stomach at the level of the bottom of the ribcage.
Seat - Measure around your hips and buttocks at their widest point.
Thigh - Measure around the thigh at its fullest.
Nape to Waist - Measure down the contour of your back from your collar to the area roughly opposite your naval.
Sleeve Length - Measure from where the seams on the shoulder meet to where you want the sleeve to end.
Inside Leg - Measure from the lowest part of the crotch of your trousers, keeping the measure taut, down to where you wish the bottom of the trousers to end.
Height - Measure parallel from the top of your head to the floor.
Other Things You May Want to Consider When Buying a Suit
The Three Button Suit
The three button suit was big in the 1990s and is not widely found in contemporary suits. The three button suit has a high button stance creating a higher ‘V’ on the chest, consequently it can sometimes look a little bit stuffy and outdated. It does sometimes work well with the taller gentleman (6’4” +) who does not need the desired elongating effect that two or one button suits do for most guys - in fact a three button suit can make really talk men look more proportioned.
The Two Button Suit
The two button suit is most commonly found in today’s suits which creates a deeper ‘V’ and longer lapels than a three button suit - this is generally more flattering for men by elongating the torso.
The One Button Suit
The one button suit is the most cutting edge of choices creating a sleek and sharp look for the suit. This style is not for everyone and some conservative types may view it as being ‘too cool/hipster’ as it creates an even lower ‘V’ which doesn’t suit everyone’s taste. A number of the popular slim fit suits are now using the one button on their jackets to reflect the modern twist on a traditional garment.
Noticeable linings on suit jackets were once only widely available on the more expensive suits but now, having proved very popular, they are available on suits at all price points. The lining of a suit is not merely for cosmetic reasons but can add structure and weight to your suit. A fully lined suit jacket is heavier, warmer and has a thicker look to it. As a result the suit jacket lays nicely over the contours of the body and will not not crinkle or catch on your shirt as easy.
The higher end suit linings will mostly comprise of silk which is very comfortable but obviously more expensive. The cheaper options usually consist of synthetic materials such as; bemberg silk, rayon, polyester, and acetate and, these can often lack durability or do not breathe well. Shop bought suits will usually have the lining already sewn in which doesn’t provide too much personalisation when it comes to colour and pattern choices.
Options for personalised suit linings include, but are not limited to, the following:
A bold contrast - a dark grey suit with a purple lining, a light grey suit with blue lining, a red suit with a deep red lining, or a navy suit with a rusty orange lining are all great options.
A subtle contrast - a slightly darker or lighter shade of the colour of the suit can be a classy and understated touch.
Contrasting patterns - if wearing a patterned suit e.g. striped, then a block coloured lining will look great. If wearing a block suit then a pattered lining will add a vibrant flair - a common favourite is the paisley pattern.
Pockets, much like the lining of a suit, present themselves in a variety of options depending on different levels of formality, price, and utility.
The most formal pocket is the jetted pocket which sits flat to the suit with the pocket being sewn into the lining of the jacket and only a narrow opening visible on the exterior. Due to being almost invisible this creates a sleek, well-groomed appearance.
Flapped pockets are slightly less formal though they are still often found on apparel intended for formal occasions and are the most common form of pockets found in men’s suits. Flapped pockets are also more practical than jetted pockets as they prevent the contents from falling out - we’ve all been at the peril of a cracked phone screen due to things slipping out of our pockets!
Rarely you may come across a diagonally cut flap pocket known as a hacking pocket which, as the name suggests, derives traditionally from English riding gear and consequently will often be found on bespoke suits made for that exact purpose. The hacking pocket does have another purpose however as with the upward diagonal angle of the pocket the eye is drawn towards the sternum making the man wearing the suit appear slimmer and taller - ideal for the larger gentleman who wants to hide a few pounds.
Working our way through the hierarchy of pocket formality, we find ourselves at the least formal patch pocket. The pocket is created by sewing a patch to the exterior of the jacket and is most frequently found on the casual suit options such as summer suits.
The Chest/ Breast Pocket should never be used to store items such as your keys or phone because it will distort the shape of the jacket making it appear lumpy, the only item that should ever be housed in this pocket is the handkerchief or pocket square. On cheaper suits the chest pockets are square shaped and those that are pricier will have an angled crown pocket which is angled towards the chest.
The internal pocket is very useful and will make you feel ever so suave when you pull out your business card, Amex, packet of tik-taks (we’re not all Patrick Bateman types). If going to a tailor the possibilities can be made as specific to your needs as you can get. In modern times such pockets are often used to carry mobile phones and iPods.
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